APAC Software Piracy Cost: $21B in Losses

Software piracy in the Asia Pacific region has cost businesses at least US$ 21 billion in sales, a report from the Business Software Alliance says. According to the organization, some 63% of computer users in the region have admitted to using pirated software, which has greatly contributed to the losses by software makers and publishers.

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The BSA held a briefing in Singapore Tuesday, and expressed concern over the rise in piracy in the region, which went up 12% from 2010. Meanwhile, the worldwide losses to piracy accounted for US$ 63.4 billion, or an 8% increase from US$ 19 billion in 2010.

BSA senior director of marketing for APAC Roland Chan equated piracy to stealing, and stressed the need for better law enforcement. “If 63 percent of consumers admitted they shoplift, authorities would react by increasing police patrols and penalties. Software piracy demands a similar response, concerted public education and vigorous law enforcement,” he said.

Piracy is growing faster in developing economies, particularly with businesses and individuals in these regions buying more personal computers, but less likely or willing to spend on software. Cheap, pirated versions are usually available either through online downloads or on optical media like CDs and DVDs.

The report highlighted software piracy losses in China, where 77% of all software in the country is illegally obtained. Chan said China had the “most troubling piracy problem,” where the “illegal software market was worth US$ 9 billion in 2011 versus a legal market of US$ 3 billion.”

The BSA said that a 10 percentage point drop in software piracy over four years would bring US$ 41 billion into the Asia Pacific economy. This translates to 350,000 jobs, says a joint research by the BSA and IDC.

Knowledge + Enforcement

The BSA acknowledges that enforcement is not enough, given that some users pirate software simply out of ignorance. Chan has highlighted the need for “awareness and education,” and that legislation should not be a deterrent. He acknowledged that tougher laws might be good in theory, but may discourage trade. “If I make it so difficult for business owners to prove rightful ownership, it might discourage them. We have to look at balancing between stopping piracy and discouraging local businesses.”